Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC. DREAM fights the coronavirus with homemade masks and health education
The cases increase in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the government declares an emergency: the supportive activities of the DREAM laboratory in Kinshasa.
In mid-May 1,160 cases of covid-19 were registered in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The first infections occurred in the capital, Kinshasa, in the La Gombe district, an administrative and commercial centre, with embassies and ministries, and therefore full of foreigners and people who often travel abroad. Within a few weeks, cases were also found in the outskirts of the city and in other provinces, in Lubumbashi and Kivu.
The government has declared an “Etat d’urgence sanitaire”. Flights and road transport have been suspended and the city centre has been put under a sort of isolation, to contain the Le Gombe district outbreak. The attempt to lockdown the whole of Kinshasa failed following speculation on the prices of basic necessities and the serious threat of a revolt of the population. There are still some restrictive measures but the transport situation is disastrous and the limits to free movement are causing serious problems for the many families who lived on what they managed to earn in the day.
As far as healthcare is concerned, the government has developed a procedure for managing the cases, some hospitals will take in covid patients and there is a national reference laboratory, the INRB Institut national de recherche biomédicale.
The DREAM laboratory in Kinshasa has started to support the national healthcare system and is one of the laboratories that will receive diagnostic reagents. Our centre, like all the other centres, immediately set up the triage, hand washing and social distancing, which is easy because the centre has a very large waiting area. It is still very difficult to find FFP2 and FFP3 masks for the healthcare personnel, they were scarce even before the coronavirus emergency broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One of the nurses from the centre brought her sewing machine and she and the activists have started making masks for everyone, also the patients who come to the centre. This same group of people are teaching the patients how to make masks at home.
Fighting the virus also means fighting fear. People are afraid of the virus but they do not know what to do and this is why health education and masks are necessary. However the health emergency is already turning into a social emergency, so as well as providing personal protective equipment, it will soon also be necessary to think about giving people food.